While Smoking Rates Decline Nationwide, North Carolina Lags Behind in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco Use, Save Lives, New American Lung Association Report Finds
(January 25, 2018) - CHARLOTTE, N.C.
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The American Lung Association’s 2018 "State of Tobacco Control" shows North Carolina could have done more to save lives by implementing proven tobacco policies. The 16th annual report grades states and the federal government on policies to prevent and reduce tobacco use, and finds that North Carolina lags significantly behind the nation to reduce and prevent tobacco use, and state policymakers can do more to prevent the death and disease associated with tobacco use and save lives.
"Nationwide, smoking rates have continued to decline to historically low levels, yet tobacco use remains the nation's leading cause of preventable death and disease killing over 480,000 Americans each year," said American Lung Association Southeast Region Executive Vice President Martha Bogdan. "Tobacco use is a serious addiction, and the fact that 17.9 percent of North Carolina residents are current smokers highlights how much work remains to be done in our communities to prevent and reduce tobacco use."
This year's "State of Tobacco Control" finds Governor Roy Cooper and the North Carolina General Assembly are failing to enact proven policies that will reduce tobacco use, exposure to secondhand smoke and save lives:
- Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs – Grade [F]
- Strength of Smokefree Workplace Laws - Grade [F]
- Level of State Tobacco Taxes - Grade [F]
- Coverage and Access to Services to Quit Tobacco - Grade [F]
- Minimum Age of Sale for Tobacco Products to 21 – Grade [F]
The American Lung Association in North Carolina calls on Governor Roy Cooper and members of the North Carolina General Assembly to restore funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs to levels of nearly a decade ago, increase the state cigarette tax by at least $1.00 per pack, and resist attempts to weaken the smoke free restaurants and bars law and expand the law to include all public places and private worksites.
Sadly, the report also details that, as a result of decades of targeted marketing by the tobacco industry, too many Americans haven’t seen the benefits of reduced smoking rates, and North Carolina and the federal government could do more to ensure all Americans benefit from tobacco control efforts. According to the American Lung Association,
- If North Carolina would increase funding for tobacco control programs, they would have a powerful opportunity to target these programs to communities that still use tobacco at higher rates and who have been targeted by the tobacco industry. North Carolina receives $450,500,000 from tobacco settlement payments and tobacco taxes, and should use more of these funds to help prevent tobacco use and help smokers quit.
- Increasing tobacco taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, not only for low-income individuals but also for youth. To protect kids from a lifetime of nicotine addiction, the Lung Association encourages North Carolina to increase tobacco taxes by at least a $1.00 per pack. This step is critical to North Carolina as current tobacco use among youth is 9.3 percent.
- Nearly seven out of ten smokers want to quit, but tobacco use is a serious addiction and quitting can be difficult. People trying to quit smoking need access to all FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications and counseling without barriers, such as copays and prior authorization. North Carolina lawmakers have a powerful opportunity to help smokers quit and reduce disparities in tobacco use by covering all quit smoking treatments in its Medicaid program. Medicaid enrollees smoke at a rate almost three times higher as those with private insurance.
- There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and if North Carolina would pass a comprehensive smokefree law that eliminates smoking in all public places and workplaces, workers across the state would benefit. This is especially critical for those who work in the service and manufacturing sectors who are often exposed to secondhand smoke daily.
"We know how to reduce tobacco use in this country. 'State of Tobacco Control' looks at proven methods to save lives and protect the health of all Americans," said Bogdan. "North Carolina elected officials must act to implement these proven policies, which will prevent tobacco-caused death and disease, and help keep our lungs healthy."
For media interested in speaking with an expert about the "State of Tobacco Control" report, lung health, tobacco use and tobacco control policies, contact the American Lung Association at Britney.Reddick@Lung.org or 470-233-7030.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.